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RCWRT Related Speech

Lee Jackson Day Speech, January 18, 2002,

Given in the Virginia State Capitol in
the Old Hall of the House of Delegates
as was part of the Friends of the
Lee Jackson Holiday Ceremony.
by State Senator William T. (Bill) Bolling of Hanover THOMAS JONATHAN "STONEWALL" JACKSON Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in Clarksburg, VA (now West Virginia) on January 21, 1824, 178 years ago. Thomas was one of four children born to his mother and father, Jonathan Jackson and Julia Neale. Early life was difficult for young Thomas. His father died at an early age and his mother, who later remarried, contracted a serious illness and died as well. As a result, Thomas and his brothers and sisters were split up and lived with a number of relatives during their formative years. By all accounts Thomas was a very religious man to whom faith in God was a very important part of his life. In fact, at his funeral in 1863 the Reverend Robert Dabney uttered these words about General Jackson: "Our dead hero is God's sermon to inculcate upon us the virtues with which he was adorned by the Holy Ghost; and especially those traits of the citizen, the Christian, and the soldier, now most essential to the times_..He is the bravest man who is the best Christian. It is he who truly fears God, who is entitled to fear nothing else_..This strength General Jackson eminently possessed. He walked in the fear of God, with a perfect heart, keeping all his commandments and ordinances, blameless. Never has it been my happiness to know one of greater purity of life, or more regular and devout habits of prayer." By all accounts Thomas was not a very good student, although he had an almost innate interest in history and military affairs. In 1842 he applied for admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point and was initially turned down, but he was persistent, and gained admission when another Cadet had to drop out. Jackson seemed to find himself and his destiny at West Point, and graduated 17th in a class of 59 in 1846, receiving commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Lieutenant Jackson saw his first military involvement in the Mexican War, serving in the artillery for two years. It was during the Mexican War that Jackson first displayed the qualities for which he would become famous: resourcefulness, bravery in the line of fire, and the ability to keep his head under tremendous pressure. When the Mexican War ended Jackson was assigned to the Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania, but the peacetime army was not to Jackson's liking and he resigned his commission in 1851 to accept a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. The outbreak of the Civil War saw Jackson still teaching at VMI, where he had specialized in natural and experimental philosophy and artillery tactics. When the need of Virginia for skilled soldiers became clear, Jackson responded to the call. He was ordered to Richmond with the entire Corps of Cadets to drill with army recruits. Less than a week later Jackson took command of troops at Harper's Ferry who were standing guard over the town following the uprising stirred by the abolitionist John Brown. A short time later Jackson was promoted to Brigadier General. Following his brief service at Harpers Ferry, General Jackson assumed command of a brigade in the army of Gen. Joseph Johnston in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. With this brigade he engaged General Robert Patterson's Union forces at Falling Waters, Virginia on July 2, 1861, and in his first battle command of the war General Jackson gained a tactical victory. In the two years that followed General Jackson gained well-deserved recognition as one of the South's most effective military leaders. He led a number of successful military campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley, was actively involved in the defense of the capitol city of Richmond, and led impressive offensive attacks at Harper's Ferry, against an 11,000 man Federal garrison; and at Antietam. But clearly, the two battles for which General Jackson is best remembered were his courage at the first battle of Bull Run, and his sacrafice at the battle of Chancellorsville. On July 18, 1861 Jackson and his brigade went to aid General Pierre Beauregard at Manassas Junction, and on July 21, 1861 Jackson and his men took a decisive part in the first battle of Bull Run. Posting his brigade on the strategic Henry House Hill, Jackson steadied the Southern front against a flank attack from General Irvin McDowell's Union troops. Jackson's men, standing firm on the hill under the onslaught of the Union attack, caught the attention of General Bernard Bee. As General Bee tried to rally his own shaken troops he pointed to Jackson's line and shouted an immortal battle cry" "There is Jackson, standing like a stonewall. Let us determine to die here and we will conquer." The name stuck, and from that time on General Jackson was affectionately referred to as Stonewall. Some two years later, Federal General Joseph Hooker began the spring campaign of 1863 by marching up the Rappahannock in an effort to overtake the army of General Robert E. Lee. General Jackson, sent to intercept Hooker, hit the enemy advance in the Wilderness near Chancellorsville on May 1, 1863. By nightfall Jackson and Lee, working in close harmony, decided that Hooker must be flanked, and Lee gave Jackson his greatest orders: if a feasible route could be found, he would command the flank march. By morning Jackson prepared to march with some 28,000 men, leaving Lee about 15,000 to face Hooker's entrenched force of over 100,000. At 5:15 PM on May 2, after a 14 mile march - one of the greatest marches of history - Jackson attacked Hooker right flank - the 11th United States Army Corps - and literally blew it out of the war. After the first impetus of the attack waned, Jackson halted his men to regroup and fatefully trotted ahead of his line to reconnoiter. When he rode back toward his own men, he and his staff were mistaken for Federals and fire upon. Jackson's left arm was shattered and he was hit on the right hand. His arm was amputated and his other wounds were dressed, and he was moved to Guiney's Station, a safe distance from the front, to recover. Although indications were that he would recover, pneumonia set in on May 7 and Jackson's condition grew progressively worse. In his final hours General Jackson roused himself to see his wife, who was at his side. He clung firmly to his faith and occasionally thought of the army. Then, on the afternoon of May 10, 1863 he rallied one last time to speak his final stirring words_.."Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the tree." With Stonewall Jackson's death the South lost one of its most capable, most respected and most feared Generals. Historians have speculated that the outcome of the war may have been different if Jackson had survived and lived to fight again. In the days following his death the Confederacy grieved for its fallen captain. Richmond held its last state funeral. General Jackson's body was lain in state in the reception room of the Executive Mansion. It was carried through the streets of Richmond and came to rest on a white-draped alter before the Speaker's bench in the Hall of the House of Delegates, where more than 20,000 people processed by to pay their respects. The General's body was then returned to Lexington by train, where people gathered at every stop to pay their respects. At Lexington the General's body was taken over by the Corps of Cadets, his first command, and was laid to rest in a cemetery looking down with a spreading view of the valley and hills with the mountains beyond. While much could be said of General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, perhaps the most appropriate words were written by his friend, General Robert E. Lee. Upon learning of the General's passing, General Lee wrote the following words to soldiers in his command. "With deep grief the Commanding General announces to the army the death of Lieutenant General T. J. Jackson. The daring, skill and energy of this great and good soldier are now, by the decree of an all wise Providence, lost to us all. But while we mourn his death we feel his spirit still lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage, and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and strength. Let his name be a watchword to his Corps, who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let his officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our country." So was Stonewall Jackson thought of in his day, and so is he remembered on this day. END

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©R.C.W.R.T. 2002 (Speech used with permission)